Integration critical in hospitals

August 2003 Integrated Solutions

Modern hospitals have somewhat unique security requirements that are best met by video surveillance and storage systems that can be integrated with other security elements such as access control, fire control and alarm systems, in order to provide a total solution.

Hospital security has to be subtle, unobtrusive and non-invasive - giving staff, patients and visitors a comfortable feeling of safety while at the same time maintaining their privacy and freedom of movement. While the privacy aspect rules out proactive camera surveillance in certain areas, there is much to be gained from reactive surveillance where, in the event of an incident or theft of equipment, recorded images from the camera or cameras in the vicinity can be quickly accessed and the culprits identified.

Integration of the CCTV system with other security systems and functions such as access and egress controls, equipment and drug stores as well the stations where bulk deliveries of equipment, drugs and other consumables are received is imperative.

Dr Bennie Coetzer, managing director of Johannesburg-based Thales Advanced Engineering, which designs and manufactures high-level electronic surveillance systems, said the overriding objective in the company's design and development of a total surveillance system solution known as the Argus, was to reduce crime.

A typical Thales video surveillance control room console
A typical Thales video surveillance control room console

Disaster management applications

In the design of the Argus total video surveillance system for security and disaster management applications, it was therefore important to develop a user-friendly and proactive system with the ability to record pictures of high quality at a realtime recording rate of up to 25 pictures per second (pps) on each camera (or as dictated by the application requirement). Other objectives included a graphical user interface to present a tactical operations picture in the control room, seamless integration with other security systems and the provision of interfaces to existing installations.

Inherent in the Argus system are the ability to rapidly select views, provide graphical displays of tactical pictures, immediately review recordings for verification and monitor views that are able to mirror the tactical picture. These are essential functions that allow control room staff to properly assess any given situation, which gives them a realistic chance of either preventing a crime or rapidly responding and apprehending suspects.

"The overall objective is to prevent the crime or, if a crime does occur, to at least secure a conviction," said Dr Coetzer. "Therefore the Argus system reconstructs events and evidence through high quality recordings with minimal or no distortion while also having the ability to track and record views of a single suspect or a number of suspects on the move."

Integrated VMD

Event detection is achieved through integrated video motion detection (VMD) technology and integration to external alarm and access detection systems.

The Argus system caters for the reactive side of security by offering facilities to provide hospital management with information and event analysis, organisation of the system around events to improve reaction, management of access to controls and information, management of spontaneous events such as security breaches or fires or other emergencies as well as reaction to theft of equipment or vehicles. Guidance support for system operators is also offered.

Through its modular architecture coupled with integrated control, the Argus system can be expanded to virtually any size, allowing systems of more than 1000 cameras to perform as a seamless unit. A network capability for remote control and viewing allows the system to operate countrywide, a feature particularly useful to large healthcare organisations with facilities countrywide. Design flexibility means that Argus can be modified to adapt to the changing requirements of users in terms of both security needs and capacity.

Essential components of the overall Argus system include the Bronte digital video recorder, capable of continuously recording all channels at a maximum rate of 25 pps for each camera. As this unit operates independently of the control computer it is immune to operating system failures and is also not affected by hard disk storage management requirements.

The recording quality can be adjusted from VHS quality (JPG file at 20 KB a picture) right up to broadcast quality (JPG file at 128 KB a picture). The Bronte system can manage sizable hard disk drive units as well as large digital tape management (LDTM) systems that offer massive storage capacity. It also allows for audio recording on each channel and synchronised data recording.

The Argo digital video matrix component is a compact and reliable full cross-point switch with built-in text generation and a sophisticated health and usage monitoring (HUM) capability, while the Aegis control computer manages the entire surveillance system and peripherals. Aegis offers graphic user interface (GUI) and is able to integrate with other security or disaster management systems. The user interface is intuitive, providing user-friendly support of proactive operation. Minimal training is required.

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